“It all depends on how you look at it.”
We’ve all heard that statement and lived it out in one way or another in how we view events, circumstances, work, politics, and God. This statement explains why some people respond with pessimism or cynicism and others with hope and optimism. Our reaction to something is a product of our interpretation of it.
This is why we need to study and know biblical doctrine. Doctrine is how we describe God and His work in our midst. When my boys were younger, we memorized the Lord’s Prayer together. Later when they started asking us about why people did evil things or why bad things happened, we reminded them that God’s will is not currently done perfectly or completely as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13) but that in Christ God was enacting a plan to restore all of creation, including us. As parents, when our boys see or experience evil, we do not want them to see chaos or to react in hopelessness or despair. We want them to see God.
We all need to see God and recognize His ways, His work, and His grace in the world we live. God hardwired all of us to see life through an interpretive grid and then gave us His Word to shape that grid to see Him clearly and make sense out of life. This past weekend at Rock Bridge, we began a series that is heavy on doctrine, specifically, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we have no greater need than to recognize and respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today.
As we navigate forward together, here are three considerations for embracing and knowing the beautiful doctrines we find in God’s Word.
1) Doctrine is a means to an end.
Unfortunately, many people believe that discipleship is simply a matter of gaining more head knowledge and that a “deep” sermon is one that explores the nuances of Greek or the details of biblical history. Biblical doctrine is for a greater purpose than gaining factual information or giving mental assent to certain principles.
Ultimately, doctrine helps us recognize, know, and respond to God in love and worship. For example, what makes the death of Jesus on the cross different from the hundreds of thousands of other people the Romans crucified? Doctrine. Because Scripture and the eyewitness accounts teach us that Jesus is the Son of God, dying in our place and for our forgiveness (doctrines of the incarnation, penal substitution, and justification).
2) Doctrine explains why we need the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27)
There is a move in American Christianity to bounce from church to church, preacher to preacher, and conference to conference without putting down deep roots in the community and life of one local church. Additionally, there is another trend that finds people attending their local church more infrequently. What is at stake in these trends? Doctrine and by implication, the ability to see God clearly, correctly, and consistently.
Let me explain. The elders of any faithful New Testament church are charged with ensuring biblically sound teaching occurs (Titus 1:9). This cannot happen in one-weekend service or even in two, no more than going to the gym once or twice a month can get you in shape. So when faithfulness to one local church is minimized, or attendance is inconsistent, the people of God lose exposure to the whole counsel of God, potentially robbing them of the sight they need in the world they live.
For example, at Rock Bridge we plan our sermons out roughly four to six months in advance, intentionally working to expose people to different sections of Scripture, different topics, and different doctrines understanding that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
For the person who is a different church every week or simply pursuing what they want to hear, they risk losing the consistent, deliberate and intentional teaching that is found when we place ourselves under the teaching and in the community of one local church.
3) Doctrine gives us content for prayer.
Ultimately, our great need is to see God, behold Him, enjoy Him, and follow Him. This means we have to get our eyes off ourselves and look to Christ. In prayer, we pray that we can see, feel, and enjoy God. Practically, this means we need to see His providence, His goodness; that we need to rest in justification, to enjoy His presence, and to discern His wisdom. Knowing doctrine helps us pray in accordance with God’s Word, pray prayers that get answered, and see those answers when they come.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what the hope of his calling is, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. [Ephesians 1:5-19, CSB]